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Presidential Hopeful Du Pont Tests Local GOP Waters

September 27, 1986|LANIE JONES | Times Political Writer

When he was introduced Friday morning as the former governor of Rhode Island, Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV, once the governor of Delaware, shrugged it off with a smile.

"Gov. George Deukmejian has introduced me as the governor of Rhode Island many times," Du Pont told 70 Republicans at the Newport Beach breakfast gathering. "I always said there was something wrong with the California school system that you can't even tell the states apart."

Still, the mix-up was another indication that Du Pont, the first announced Republican candidate for president, has plenty of work to do before the 1988 elections. But, only a week after he formally announced his candidacy, Du Pont, 51, is actively working to make his name better known in political circles.

Campaign Stops

In the last week, there have been campaign stops in New Hampshire, Iowa and Southern California. On Thursday, Du Pont met with a small group of Republicans in Beverly Hills. Today he is to speak at the Republican State Convention in Los Angeles.

Friday at the Hotel Meridien in Newport Beach, he addressed members of the Silver Circle, Republicans who pay $500-a-year dues to the Orange County Republican Party.

In his 20-minute speech, Du Pont touched on several campaign themes: federally guaranteed loans to finance higher education for adults, making schools drug-free by testing teen-agers for use, protecting U.S. missiles with a defensive shield.

Pressure on South Africa

In answer to a question, he also advocated "pressuring the South African government to begin to give freedom to the people of their country. I would keep the pressure on."

Noting that the United States was aiding freedom fighters in Afghanistan and Nicaragua, Du Pont said: "Let's be consistent, and let's be forceful in our policy."

Afterward, several in the audience said that they were impressed with Du Pont's remarks but that it was much too early to support him. Harry Merrill, vice president of John D. Lusk & Son, said: "He's well thought out. He's polished. But he's still the first one out of the chute."

Agreed Silver Circle chairman Tom Thompson: "He's a neat guy. I'm excited about the prospects of a candidacy. But I'm keeping my powder dry at this point."

Du Pont did not seek financial help at Friday's appearance, which was arranged about six months ago--long before he announced for the presidency--but he did tell the audience: "I need an army of people. I need you."

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